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Marilee J. Layman

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10:15 pm: In the Garden Of Iden by Kage Baker
I suggested Baker for the bookgroup, but we've acquired a rule that we have to read the first one of a series, so maybe I shouldn't have. Everybody but me hated it, and I like it more at least partly because I've read the others.

The Company books are about Dr. Zeus, a company of immortals who can send people back in time to rescue small children and things that are about to disappear in history. Mendoza, a young child who didn't know her own name, ends up with the Spanish Inquisition (yes, yes) and is harvested by Joseph, who has been a cyborg much longer. We skim through most of her cyborg training and botanist education and find that she's being sent to Queen Mary's England, to a country house with plants that can be saved for the future. Unfortunately, this part is amazingly boring. It turns into a bad Marythan romance, with religious overtones. I think the next book, Sky Coyote is better, but my favorite is Mendoza in Hollywood.

If you like mixing cyborgs and historical romances, this is for you.



Date:November 17th, 2008 02:46 pm (UTC)

Left me wanting my time back

As one of the members of the aforementioned bookgroup, I think that Marilee might have actually understated how much the members of the group collectively and individually disliked this book.

To my mind it suffers from a number of issues.

First and foremost, it just isn't very well written - at best, the prose is mediocre, and at times ventures into god-awfulness. I know it was her first novel. The problem is, it reads like one.

Second, the book seems to suffer from an identity crisis. Is it a time-travel sci-fi novel or is it a period historical romance? The overwhelming problem with cross-genre novels is that they tend to be a poor amalgamation of the worst properties of whatever is being crossed. In this case, there really isn't enough science fiction to make it workable in that venue, and the historical romance is pretty laughable.

Third, unlike most of the group, who thought that the first few chapters showed promise before devolving, I didn't really like that part either. The whole idea of using time-travel to test immortality was poorly conceived and inherently circular and paradoxical. Also, the whole idea of being able to do what they want so long as they don't change "recorded history" is also laughable in its ambiguity. What exactly is "recorded history" is the first question that leaps to my mind. And while it didn't happen in the early part of the book, what I like to call the "Bill and Ted" moment, where Nef tells Mendoza that she must have succeeeded in collecting the information about the Ilex because they have the sample in the future made me want to throw the book.

Fourth, even without the pronouncmemt on the front cover that "Iden" is the "First Company Novel", while reading the book, the story always felt incomplete. And even if "Iden" is merely setting the stage for future novels, the story has to be interesting enough to convince the reader that subsequent offerings are worth reading. I left "Old Man's War" contemplating reading the sequals, but not "Iden".

Enough rant. Mendoza was just not an interesting enough character to hold my interest for 300 or so pages. She's a whiny, moody teenage girl, and I think that it is a given that such a character is not going to be a reliable narator of her own internal state. If Baker had done something interesting with that, it might have made for a more interesting story, b ut as it is, well, meh.
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